Saturday, March 28, 2009

Weeks Holiday in Andalucia March 2009

Holiday in Andalucia, Spain (March 17->24 2009)

Shan and I had a weeks holiday in Andalucia staying in Stephen Daly's cottage near Barbate. See his website

On the Tuesday (17th) we flew from Southampton to Malaga with Flybe. The flight was good and we had stunning views as we flew over the Picos de Europa mountains, still snow capped. Having picked our hire car up we drove to the cottage taking about 2.5 hours. It was easy peesy for us to go from Southampton as we live nearby. We can check-in online and turn up an hour beforehand. The flight was pretty good apart from when we got near Malaga. As the Levante was blowing strong it was very bumpy ride as we descended into Malaga. Still we got down and away after picking up our hire car, a nice automatic Citreon C4 Picasso.

On the Wednesday we went into Barbate for the morning and walked around. As the Levante was still blowing strong walking along the beach was tricky trying to keep out of the sand. A few birds were seen: Pallid Swifts, 1 Alpine Swift, lots of House Martins, Gannets out to sea, 1 Griffon Vulture, Cattle and Little Eagrets. With the wind butterflies were virtually non-existent but for a few Painted Ladys. Stephen had told us there were hundreds waiting to come over from Morocco. As we saw all week Painted Ladys were the most numerous buttefly.
We got back to the cottage by mid-afternoon expecting a relaxing sit in the garden. What we didn't expect is to see 300+ rapters fly over the garden during the next 2 hours. Mainly Black Kites but also Short-toed Eagles, Booted Eagles, Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, 1 Hobby, several White Storks and Cattle Egrets.
Wow, that was a great start to the holiday.

The next day we had booked Stephen for a day trip and it was one I shall never forget for a long time to come.
(see Stephen's Blog and the entry "what a fantastic day out".)
We just got lucky as the wind had dropped somewhat but was still coming from the east. So all the rapter passage was coming over our way (between Tarifa and Barbate). Started off above Bolonia and saw just hundreds of Black Kites, also Short-toed Eagles, Booted Eagles, Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, Sparrowhawks.
There we saw 2 Little Swifts and nesting Griffon Vultures. Just amazing.
Montagu's Harriers came through as we headed back down towards Bolonia. A pair of Short-toed Eagles tried to mate on one of the pylons.

Onto Los Alcornocales NP and the rapters just kept coming. The sky was full , some low, some high some kettles containing many birds. We managed to see 2 Black Storks in amongst a high group and heard a Bee-eater (Stephen said this was the 1st of the year). After we headed to La Janda and drove along the dyke.
Hear also many rapters including lots of Marsh Harriers. Purple Swamphens were quite visible in the dyke. A female Hen Harrier through through at one point giving us good comparison with Marsh and Monties.
Onto lunch near Benalup.
After lunch we drove between Benelup and Vejer (I think) seeing some excellent views of Montagu's Harriers as they patrolled over the rolling hills. We found a couple of Woodchat Shrikes sheltering out of the wind. A few Calandra Lark were found at one spot and the Andalucian version of Red-legged Partridge were common. A Litle Owl gave cracking views as it sat watching us watching it.
To end the brilliant day we visited a site for 2 Black-shouldered Kites which sat distantly on top of one of the umbrella pines। Also a Hoopoe sat feeding on the ground nearby.

Booted Eagle

Booted Eagle

The next day the wind had dropped significantly. We started off at Bolonia but only a small passage of Rapters first thing. we walked along the track to the lighthouse and had a really good view of a Rock Sparrow as itmade it way along the track. On the track there was a small damp area which attracted a few small birds; Serins and Chaffinches. Nearing the car an Osprey flew over as did 3 groups of calling Bee-eaters of which we found 2 of the groups high over us. Here we saw our only 2 Red-rumped Swallows.
After some lunch in Terfia we went into Alcornocales again. At last some butterflies: 1 Spannish Festoon a couple of times and 1 Provence Hairstreak. A Monarch also flew past in the ealy afternoon. Also quitre a few small white butterflies which we didn't ID at the time.
Lots of Griffon Vultures around and a couple of Short-toed Eagles. Then 100+ group of White Storks flew over. Another Hoopoe sat on a post at one point.
Onto Vejer de la Frontier and we got some serious exercise as we walked up to the Church at the top of the town. But the walk was wirth it as it gave excellent views of the Lesser Kestrels that are around there.

Saturday we visited La Janda and drove along the dyke. Many Marsh Harriers around now and more good views of Purple Swamphens. As we got to the 1st wet area Spoonbills sat in a field as did a Putple Heron before flying off. We eventually got to a rice field near Benalup. Good views of a pair of Black-winged Stilts and a Collared Pratincole was hawking over the lagoon every so often. Also there Greenshank and a Spotted Redshank. Many LRPs around the area.

Purple Heron


Sunday the wind got up again. Struggled to see many birds but a small area we managed to get out of the wind in Alcornocores and found a few migrants: 1 male Redstart, 1 Spotted Flycatcher, loads of Blackcaps but these are all over the area any way. The wind died down at the spot we stopped at so more butterflies: Spannish Festoon, Cleopatra, Provence Hairstreak, Red Admiral, Painted Lady and another Monarch. Managed to photograph the white and turned out to be Green-stripped White. See below.


Provence Hairstreak

Provence Hairstreak

Provence Hairstreak

Green-stripped White

Green-stripped White

Back at the cottage on the Sunday Stephen picked up this moth, a nice female Emperor Moth

Emperor Moth

The Monday was still very windy. We stopped above Bolonia again and I walked along the track to the light house. A nice male Subalpine Warbler showed well, another Osprey flew over. We sat in a car park by the beach watching a few Sanderling and KPs then realised there were quite a few Shearwaters 100-200 metres off the beach. Eventually got close in views of at least 2 Cory's.
After a nice lunch in the restaurant at the junction to Bolonia we went through Alcornocores again. A few more rapters around and one flock of low-flying Bee-eaters flew over our spot. One time the wind droped and the temperature suddenly rose. A Rapter passage suddenly happened with Black Kites, Booted Eagles, and 1 Goshawk flew through.

Tuesday we travelled back to Malaga stopping off at the Mirador cafe above Terifa. A small passage was underway with Black Kites, Booted Eagles, Griffon Vultures, Egyptian Vulture, Short-toed Eagles. After 3/4 hour we headed to Malaga and dropped our car off and the flight back home.

97 species of birds for the week (* also seen or heard from the cottage)

Alpine Swift
Bee-eater *
Black Kite *
Black Stork
Black-headed Gull
Black-shouldered Kite
Black-winged Stilt
Blackbird *
Blue Rock Thrush
Blue Tit
Booted Eagle *
Calandra Lark
Cattle Egret *
Cetti's Warbler *
Collared Dove *
Collared Pratincole
Common Buzzard
Common Gull
Common Sandpiper
Common Tern
Corn Bunting *
Cory's Shearwater
Crag Martin
Crested Lark
Egyptian Vulture *
Great Tit *
Green Woodpecker
Greenfinch *
Grey Heron
Griffon Vulture *
Hen Harrier
Hobby *
House Martin
Kentish Plover
(Common) Kestrel *
Little Ringed Plover
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Lesser Kestrel
Little Egret
Little Owl
Little Swift
Marsh Harrier
Med Shearwater
Montagu's Harrier
Nightingale *
Pallid Swift *
Purple Heron
Purple Swamphen
Red Kite
Red-legged Partridge
Red-rumped Swallow
Rock Sparrow
Sandwich Tern
Sardinian Warbler *
Serin *
Short-toed Eagle *
Short-toed Treecreeper *
Siskin *
Spotless Starling *
Spotted Flycatcher
Spotted Redshank
Subalpine Warbler
(Barn) Swallow *
(Common) Swift *
Tawny Owl *
White Stork *
White Wagtail
Wood Pigeon
Woodchat Shrike
Yellow Wagtail
Yellow-legged Gull *
Zitting Cisticola (Fan-tailed Warbler) *

11 species of butterflies: Brimstone, Cleopatra, Green-stripped White, Large White, Monarch, Morocan Orange-tip, Painted Lady, Provence Hairstreak, Red Admiral, Spannish Festoon, Speckled Wood.

The number of butterflies was somewhat disappointing but given how windy it was at times it was not too surprising.

For me the rapter passage was the highlight, fantastic